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DTMS director gets city support

Investment in Red Wing’s downtown could use an extra push, City Council members said Monday as they gave their general support to helping fund Downtown Main Street.

“Downtown has been quiet for way too long,” Council member Jason Sebion said. “Some way, we need to fund it.”

The group wants to hire a full-time executive director who would focus on implementing the city’s Downtown Action Plan, help organize and promote area events, work on business recruitment and retention, and strengthen the DTMS program, according to the group’s proposal.

DTMS had asked the city for $65,000 in 2014. City attorney Amy Mace said state statute limits the city to $50,000 in annual contributions toward economic development organizations. It is unclear whether that is the total limit or the cap per group, and Mace said that is open to interpretation.

The council generally agreed to ask city staff to include funds for DTMS in the 2014 budget as they continue to hash out the details.

Council members agreed the work is needed.

“In 2009, we passed the Downtown Action Plan. It really hasn’t gone very far, in my opinion,” Council member Mike Schultz said. “We’ve languished long enough in this area. It’s time to push.”

The question is how the city will fund its portion.

Schultz said the city needs to look at increasing its lodging tax in the near future to help pay for expenses such as this, contributing to the Visitors and Convention Bureau and other economic development work and events.

“We need to get serious about funding this in a different way,” he said. Others agreed.

A lodging tax increase would have to go to the state Legislature for approval, council members said.

Council member Ralph Rauterkus said he thinks the area needs someone to work on retail issues for the whole city, not just downtown.

“It seems like a better fit to have a retail specialist within the Port (Authority) addressing this issue citywide,” he said.

Council President Lisa Bayley said she likes that the proposed city contribution is time-limited and can be assessed every year. Council members agreed they need to develop a way to measure whether the city’s contribution is beneficial each year before dedicating more funds.

A concern from the city about the proposal was overlap with the Port Authority and other economic development agencies. DTMS Board President Dawn Bennett said the group has talked with the port and believes they have “a collaborative relationship.”

Port Executive Director Randy Olson agreed, saying DTMS could especially help provide retail expertise and the organizations could work together.

The City Council plans to hold a budget workshop at the public library 6 p.m. Nov. 4.

Council member Peggy Rehder was absent Monday.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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